Taylor Fussman: Gender pay gap persists in professional world

Women across the country woke up on Tuesday, April 2, to a slew of stories, tweets and inspiring Instagram pictures of celebrities discussing the gender pay gap in honor of Equal Pay Day, a date which symbolizes how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year.

On Wednesday, April 3, the news moved on to the next story of the day, a different trending hashtag dominated Twitter and Instagram was filled with celebrity selfies and fitness tips. For many people, the conversation about the pay gap came to an end for another year.

But for the mother who watched her male coworker receive the promotion and raise she was more qualified for because it required more hours than she could find child care for, the gender pay gap still is part of the conversation.

For the young woman who recently earned her degree only to enter her field and find herself making less than her male counterparts with comparable education and experience, the gender pay gap still is part of the conversation.

And for all the women who talk themselves breathless trying to convince people this is a real and persistent problem, the gender pay gap still is part of the conversation.

According to a 2018 Pew Research Center analysis of median hourly earnings of both full- and part-time workers in the U.S., women earned 85 percent of what men earned.

Despite evidence presented by this study and others, it is easy for people to dismiss the pay gap as a problem sensationalized by past and present feminists which only exists because women choose traditionally lower paying professions or work fewer hours.

However, studies from the American Association of University Women show the gap persists in traditionally female-dominated professions like nursing and education administration as well.

Since the gender pay gap originally developed due to factors such as gender discrimination, educational attainment, occupational segregation and work experience, there are steps companies, organizations, policy makers and individuals can take to continue to narrow the gap.

Steps such as implementing more transparent hiring and promotion practices, enforced parental leave policies, mentoring programs, salary negotiation training and encouraging both men and women to take time off have all been suggested as ways to reduce the institutionalized problem that is the gender pay gap.

Addressing these issues would not only help give women more equal footing on the professional playing field, but it also would provide more financial security to men and families as women more and more often take on the role of primary provider.

Women have worked over the last several decades to earn their place in a professional world traditionally dominated by men, but there still is a long way to go before the two become equal, and the only way we can expect to bridge this gap is to hold the conversation on more than one day each April.

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Posted by Taylor Fussman

Taylor is the city/county reporter for the Pioneer and Herald Review newspapers. She can be reached at (231) 592-8362 or by email at tfussman@pioneergroup.com.

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